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“Mistakes are proof that you are trying”  Unknown.

Christmas Morning 2012

Weather:
Mostly clear (Yeah! Haven’t seen the sun in a while!)
Temp: 17 deg F
Wind: N 10 mph
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Woke up this morning and knew right away that I had to get out and enjoy the beautiful sunshine.  We haven’t had a lot of it over that last couple of weeks, and I needed a good dose of what I call “Vitamin S (Sunshine)”.  We threw our snowshoes into the back of the Jeep and decided to walk/snowshoe a trail that we did part of this fall while geocaching, but didn’t go all the way down.  The roads were pretty icy due to the snow and then rain on top, but we didn’t have to worry about a lot of traffic, so that was a plus.

Once at the trailhead, we realized that snowshoes wouldn’t be needed so we set out.  Needless to say, the snow was pretty crunchy, but quite walkable.  Noisy as all get out so we knew the wildlife would know we were coming, yelling “Yo 100_5703Bear!” was not necessary.

We were not the only ones enjoying this trail.  There were other tracks already laid down, but not sure when they were done.  We came to the ponds that we were told were back here and weren’t sure what we were going to find.  We scared up a grouse and as usual, it scared me just as much as I scared it!  We noticed a lot of deer tracks and even some “otter slides” going down the banks to each pond.  I’ve always found humor is seeing otters sliding on their bellies instead of trying to walk through deep snow.  Wouldn’t it be funny if we did that?  Could you imagine how funny we’d look sliding around on our bellies?!  But it would be a great way to travel!

100_5708After a brief rest and some picture taking, we started back.  Found a side trail, and as usual, had to see where it went.  Found it looped around into an open area and then back to the main trail.  As we were heading back, the clouds started rolling in and the wind began picking up.  I knew my dose of Vitamin S was coming to an end, but I enjoyed it immensely!   A very nice way to spend Christmas Day!

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“He is rich who is content with the least; for contentment is the wealth of nature.”  Socrates (469-399); Philosopher

                                                            Today’s Weather

100_565933 deg F
Mostly sunny
Wind: SW 5-6 mph
2:30 pm

Since today is a unique day (12/12/12) we decided to go find a cache, just in case a souvenir was given out.  Robert picked out two on the old Air Force base in Oscoda, knowing they probably didn’t get as much snow as we did, we’d have a pretty good chance of finding one.  Thankfully he did pick out two, we couldn’t find the first one!  So we moved on to the second one and was able to find it.  We then headed back home, more “chores” to do.

After seeing the eagle yesterday, I decided to do my walk right around the same time today, just to see if he/she was there again.  I strapped on my Yak Trax and off I went.  And much to my delight, I spotted the eagle in very near the same spot.  I quietly took a few more steps and was very excited to see another one sitting right beside it!  A pair, yeah, I’d heard there was a family of eagles around and was glad to confirm that rumor.

Our pair of Eagles

Right after this picture was taken, the one on the right flew off, followed by the other.  I took a few steps and was immediately surprised by a  Pileated Woodpecker flying from a branch right above my head to another tree.  I was unable to snap a picture before it flew off again and at the same time, a black squirrel ran across the road in front of me.  I softly told it to go hide, there are eagles in the area!!  Wow!  What a treat.

Once I got to the end of the road, I was still looking for the eagles and to my surprise, they were sitting on the newly formed ice on the lake.  I didn’t think the ice was thick enough to support one, let alone both eagles.  But again, before I could get my camera read to go, one flew off, but I was able to catch the other on the ice.

Eagle on ice

I turned around and began back down the road hoping I could catch a glimpse of one of the eagles again.  I always feel bad when I frighten them off, I  know they are waiting for one of the small ducks on the lake to look ‘particularly appetizing’, and I know I don’t like to be disturbed while either preparing dinner or eating dinner, so I tried to be as quiet as I could.  A little way down the road, yup, there he is, sitting beautifully on a branch.  I quickly snapped another picture and kept walking as quietly as possible.

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I continued on my walk and began hearing a “tap tap tap”.  I knew it was a woodpecker and after scanning the trees in the area, I finally located it on the tree right in front of me!  It was a small Downy Woodpecker and  he seemed thoroughly engrossed in his search for bugs in the bark of the birch tree.  It seemed to me that he could care less that I was standing just a few feet away.  These are the encounters I enjoy the most.  Being present but not disturbing them in their activity.   I then continued on back home, enjoying the beautiful blue sky and sunshine, because I know tomorrow may be totally different.

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“To keep from getting to far ahead of myself, I can apply to life what I’ve learned from running in the woods: The step in front of you is the most important one.”  Annie Morris – Mom, Runner, Writer

I have been feeling the pull of the woods since the leaves have changed and fallen and the nights have been getting quite chilly.  I know winter is on its way and I want to get all the fall hiking/geocaching in that I can.  I quickly watch the Weather Channel and realize that Sat and Sun are going to be the best days prior to Hurricane Sandy coming ashore in New Jersey.  I know we are a long way from New Jersey, but the sheer size of the storm will affect us and our 7-day forecast shows just that-wind and rain/snow starting Monday through Thursday.  I gather my trail maps and figure out which trails we haven’t been on yet and which trails may have geocaches on or near them.  Since we had already hiked the East Entrance trails of the Hoist Lakes Foot Travel Area, we decide on the West Entrance trails and see that there are two caches near the trails.

The morning is quite chilly (31 deg), but mostly sunny and not too windy.  I pack my backpack with “trail food”, my warmest pair of mittens, a change of shoes (still breaking in a new pair), a couple of water bottles, and as a treat-a small thermos of coffee.  Since moving to Huron National Forest area, the trailhead is just a few miles up the road so we are able to actually get an early start.  We arrive at the trailhead and see at least 7 other vehicles already there!  Wow, we never see this many vehicles in the parking area, let alone know that there are other people on the trails.  We pay our required day use fee and off we go.

We quickly realize that the probably of seeing any wildlife will be very slim due to the crunching of the leaves beneath our feet and also the fact that there are quite a number of people already out there.  We are on the trail only a few minutes when I hear someone coming up behind us.  A bow hunter.  We exchange pleasantries and let him pass, he is in a much bigger hurry than we are.  I am then instantly thankful that my husband put on his hunter orange hat.  It is not rifle deer season yet, but knowing that hunters are probably out here, being visible is a plus.

On our many hikes in the National Forest, we often see the blue diamond trail markers barely hanging on or missing in general.  So my husband bought a small hammer and some nails and we fix the trail markers that need help.  We found this to be the case on the trails today.  Throughout today’s hike, we ended up fixing about seven markers.

We arrived at a small lake called Byron Lake and realized that there were people camping in the various sites in the area.  We pulled out the GPS to see how far we had to go to our first cache and wouldn’t you know, it pointed right to a campsite that was currently occupied.  We realized that we’d have to pass up that cache so I took some pictures of the lake and we moved on down the trail.  A little while later we arrived at another lake with no name.  I pondered the thought of “what would I name this lake”?  I asked my husband that question and his answer- “Lake in the Middle of Nowhere”.  True, but I was thinking of something like “Serenity Lake” or “Little Lake All By Itself”.  Silly I know, but it kept my mind occupied for a while.  We were able to locate this cache quickly and then found our way back to the trail and decided to eat lunch there.

On the final two segments of the loop, we noticed the excessive amount of downed trees across the trail.  We began to feel that this section hadn’t been hiked in a while, or the cutbacks in the budgets of our Forest Service and DNR impacted the maintenance of these trails.  Either way, we decided to help out and fix the trail markers that were damaged, missing, or hiding on fallen trees.  It’s the least we can do since we enjoy the use of the Forest.

Even though we couldn’t be very quiet while hiking, we did stir up a couple of grouse, many chipmunks, and quite a few black squirrels.  Another good day in the woods.

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“He is rich who is content with the least; for contentment is the wealth of nature.”  Socrates (469-399);  Philosopher

The weather in Michigan seems to always be a topic of conversation to native Michiganians.  We always say, “if you don’t like it, wait five minutes and it will change”.  Yesterday was a fine example.  We awoke to blue skies and temperatures already in the 50’s with a strong southerly wind.  We were forecasted to be in the high 70’s and I was looking forward to being able to get some yard work done.

After a brisk “hilly” walk, we did some errands in town and on the way back, I decided to mulch up those beautiful leaves that just a few days ago were on the trees all around us.  I used them as compost in my flowerbeds since the soil is poor at best, so any organic material will be a bonus to it.

I believe another flock of Trumpeter Swans has made a pit stop on our lake.  I don’t know if they were the same ones as before, so I’m only guessing that it may be a new flock coming from the north.  And like the previous flock, their honking makes me chuckle when I hear it.  I now have a nickname for the swans, “buoy butts”.  We were driving through a campground on Alcona Pond a few days ago and I seen a pair of swans near what I thought were swim buoys, but instead, they were swans that had tipped their butts up in the air so they could eat off the bottom.  I was very surprised when they popped up and realized what they were!

Today was the second day that a wild turkey has flown by the house and landed in the pine tree out front.  What is kind of odd is that the turkey landed on the same branch of the same tree as the previous one did.  Is this branch a “safe house” of sorts?  Do the turkeys know that is a good place to get away from whatever scared them off the ground?  My husband tells me that turkeys don’t like to fly much so it must have been something they were definitely afraid of to make this one fly and land so high in the tree.  I just hope that it finds it’s flock again, but I’m sure it will.

Our change in the weather came overnight.  A front from the west moved through and today is party cloudy with a high of maybe 50 degrees.   Still a brisk wind, but somewhat pleasant if you can find a protected area.  A big change is coming, we have a chance of snow showers on Tuesday with a high only in the 30’s.  That will feel like winter is just around the corner.

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“You are not Atlas carrying the world on your shoulder. It is good to remember that the planet is carrying you. ”

Vandana Shiva  (born 1952); Philosopher, Environmental Activist, Author

Wow, it’s been a while since I’ve written!  It’s been a very busy year so far.  To sum it up fairly quickly:

January:  trip to Upper Peninsula for 25th anniversary and skiing and snowshoeing.

February:  Husband taking emergency trip to FL to take care of his father’s estate.

April:  motorcycle safety course and purchase of new Yamaha V-Star.

May:  began searching for a new home to buy.

July:  found a wonderful little house on an inland lake in the middle of the Huron  National Forest, put offer in, offer accepted.   Also found buyer for our current residence.

August:  packing and closing on new home.  Began painting in new home.

September:  closed on sale of current residence.  Finished painting, continuing to move belongings out of storage.

October:  Finally out of storage and here we are today, wondering where on earth 2012 went!

I guess when I put it like that, it’s been a busy year and no wonder it’s flown by!  Now that we are getting pretty settled in our new home, we absolutely love it here.  The thing that we noticed the most is the darkness!  At our old home, we were surrounded by lights.  To see a meteor shower or just to star gaze in general, was pretty hard.  We could see the brightest stars, but nothing like what we see now.

The wildlife is also amazing to us.  We have a herd of approximately 20 deer that seem to think our yard is their personal grazing area and also a flock of wild turkey that come and go as they please.  Also a couple of rabbits, many squirrels and chipmunks, and also other various critters that we hear but don’t always see.  After seeing the deer in our yard one day, I realized that I’m going to have to think very carefully about what I plant and try to figure out what deer DON’T like to eat, so that I may have some kind of a flower garden, instead of just stubs of plants for the entire summer.  We also had a pair of Common Loons on the lake.  Our neighbors tell us that this summer was their fifth summer here.  It’s wonderful to hear them, especially in the evenings and early mornings.  They have since left the lake for their migration south, and I sincerely hope they return next spring.  We also had approximately 15 Trumpeter Swans show up a couple of weeks ago, I’m sure they were just stopping for a rest break on their migration trip.  They took off in one large group yesterday and have not since returned.  I know now why they are called ‘Trumpeter’ Swans.  When the mass starts sounding off, they sound like a group of kids picking up horns for the first time.

Our color was absolutely beautiful this fall.  For as hot and dry as it was this summer, I was surprised at the intensity of the color.  Even though it was about two weeks early, it came quickly, but lasted quite a long time.  We have since had some high winds and most of those beautiful leaves are now in our yard—it was still a treat to see such vivid colors.

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“My hope still is to leave the world a bit better than when I got here.”  Jim Henson (1936-1990); American Puppeteer

When I woke up this morning, I knew I wanted to do something outside.   When I watched the weather and they said the winds were supposed to kick up today, I figured a bike ride would not be very fun.  So my next immediate thought was a hike.  I have been wondering if the pair of loons we seen on Reid Lake last year had come back, so we decided to go hike the Reid Lake area to check.  I packed a couple to PB&Js, some chips and chocolate and off we went.  By the time we got to the trailhead, the wind was howling, it had turned cloudy and quite cool, only in the mid 40’s.  Considering we were in the 80’s a week and a half ago, we are back to more normal temperatures now, but boy, the warm weather was nice while it lasted!

We immediately noticed the amount of down-fall.  We thought back over the winter, and realized that we may not have had much snow, but we did have a lot of wind.  And looking around, that was pretty evident.  The first junction of the Homestead Loop is right at Reid Lake, and unfortunately, no sign of the loons, but we did scare up a grouse, or should I say, it scared me!   We did a quick Tai Chi practice, to honor Mother Nature, and continued on down the trail.  About half way around the lake, we seen and heard a pair of Sandhill Cranes fly over, we figured they were going to one of the other bodies of water in the area.

We then worked our way around Fanny’s Marsh Loop and was surprised at the amount of water that was in it.  We also noticed a very large flock of Bufflehead ducks on it and almost right in the middle was a very large beaver lodge.  Whether it was still an active lodge, we couldn’t tell, but it was an impressive one.  We stopped and ate our lunch on a large fallen tree and always had to keep one eye looking up.  The wind was still quite strong and the trees were swaying and crashing into each other up high and every now and then, we seen and heard branches coming down.

We then started around the Mossy Bog Loop and that loop was definitely true to it’s name.  We found ourselves avoiding some wet areas, but not too bad for early Spring.  Until…all of a sudden our trail disappeared into the bog!  Thankfully, we were able to pick our way around the bog and eventually got back onto the main trail.  On the other side, we immediately discovered the reason for the high water, a beaver dam.  We could tell that this dam was old, but the engineering and architecture was such that it looked like it was going to be there for quite some time to come.    Just a little way up the trail, we came to a rather long foot bridge across yet another beaver pond.  This one also had a large lodge in the center of it, and again, we couldn’t tell if it was still active, but the lodge and the dam looked like they were there for the long haul.  It’s amazing what beavers can do!!

 We also spotted a lot of the False Morel Mushrooms, but couldn’t find any of the edible Morels.  Not sure if the latest cold weather put a damper on their popping up.  What we did miss today were the scurrying, furry little Chipmunks or Ground Squirrels.  We usually see at least a few dozen when we are in these woods, but today, the ground was quiet.  All of the wildlife we observed was of the winged families.

Our wildlife sighting list goes like this:  8 Wild Turkeys, 2 Hawks, 1 Grouse, a flock of Bufflehead Ducks, 4 Mallards, 2 Sandhill Cranes, and 1 Green-backed Heron.  Overall, a great 5.5 mile hike on an early Spring day.

Happy Hiking,

Sheri

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“During your life, everything you do and everyone you meet rubs off in some way.  Some bit of everything you experience stays with everyone you’ve ever known, and nothing is lost.  That’s what’s eternal, these little specks of experience in a great, enormous river that has no end.”   American Writer Harriet Doerr

From my last entry, you know we have had an early, and very warm spell.  Besides us people being confused about what the calendar should say– the plants are just as confused.    The forsythia is in full bloom, daffodils are everywhere, and even the huge willow trees are almost all leafed out!  Unfortunately we are under a freeze advisory for tonight, I am hoping that not too much damage will be done to these tender blooms.

Since we were supposed to have a beautiful sunny day today, we decided to break out the GPS and get our first geocaching day of 2012 in the books.  I picked 17 caches in the Au Sable River/Oscoda area, since we didn’t have much snow all winter and this spring has been fairly dry, I figured the back roads wouldn’t be too bad.  We packed up our lunch and hit the road.

Our first few caches were found very easily, that is always good, since we goofed a little with our GPS unit, after all, it’s been quite a few months since we’ve used it!  We then headed to the Old Five Channels Bridge for a cache.  We walked out onto the old bridge and found out immediately that the bugs are also confused as to what season it is.  Swarms of small gnat like flies engulfed us and almost drove us off the bridge!  Thankfully, it didn’t take too long to find the cache, it was well hidden, but with my husband’s clever eye, he picked it out.

Our next cache took us to the north side of the river to a small park and boat launch area that we had stopped at a couple of years ago.  The reason I remember it so vividly is that as I was standing there, reading some informational signage, I heard a ruckus above my head, and as I turned around to see what it was, a fox squirrel fell out of the tree and almost landed at me feet!  I laughed so hard that I had tears streaming down my cheeks!  So from that day on, we have always referred to that place as the “Squirrel Falling” place.  When I noticed someone had placed a cache in the vicinity, I was very glad to go back, today unfortunately, so such event took place.  After finding the cache, we were walking back to the picnic area and as I looked down, I spotted a small garter snake slithering away, I felt bad about disturbing it’s ‘sun bathing’ session and just a few feet away, I also noticed a little lavender colored butterfly flitting about.  I had to keep telling myself that it is still March, not late April!  I was amazed at what we were seeing.  We decided to eat our lunch there and enjoy the beautiful scenery.

We then moved on farther down the river to a cache that had us a little stumped on how to get to, so we found a two-track and drove down as far as we could and figured we could hike the rest of the way.  It was after all, a beautiful day, and getting a hike in is just icing on the cake!  After a short way, we came to a paved road and a very nice parking area and scenic overlook that highlighted the Bald Eagles in the area!  Ok, so we pooched that one, but the hike was still nice.  As we were looking for the cache, a beautiful eagle flew over us and landed not far away.  I crept out to the clearing and was able to get a couple of good pictures before it flew off.  How cool!  We determined it was a juvenile, no white on it yet.  So I figured that if we had driven out there, we wouldn’t have seen the eagle.  Right?!  After getting back to the car, another couple drove up and we chatted with them and they were also cachers, looking for the same cache that we just came from.  We hinted to them that there was an easier way to the cache, but didn’t want to spoil it for them, just in case they also wanted to do a little hiking.

Our next cache took us to the Foote Pond area.  There is a paddle boat called the Au Sable Queen there that gives cruises and such, but currently still out of the water, it is after all, only March!  After locating the cache, I noticed a couple of swans in the area so I crept down to the bank to get some pictures.  Boy was I shocked that when they noticed me, they actually started swimming towards me!  I’m thinking they are residents and that they have gotten hand-outs from well-meaning people.  Unfortunately for them, the only thing they received from me, was a spotlight in my blog!  At first we thought they were Tundra Swans, but after looking in my bird book, we noticed they did not have the yellow smudge on their bills that the Tundra Swans have, it was then we realized that they were Trumpeter Swans!  What a surprise, I didn’t think Trumpeters were in this area, but from what we’ve learned, this is a summer breeding area for a small number of them.  But since they swam right up to us, I think they are residents at the Foote Pond.  What a great day!

Our remaining caches were quickly found with no such surprises and we finished our day around 5:00 pm, grabbed a quick bite and headed home.  For our first day out, it was a great one!  Our wildlife spottings were:  1 Hawk, 1 Garter snake, 1 lavender butterfly, 1 juvenile Eagle, and 2 Trumpeter swans.  A very good day indeed.

Happy Caching,

Sheri

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